We spent a restorative week up north at Barnabas from July 2 - July 7. The speakers during the week we attended were Mark Warren, a pastor in Bellingham, WA, and Carolyn Arends, a singer/songwriter from British Columbia. Their theme was "Understanding Spiritual Gifts."
Please keep this in mind when I write of Camp Barnabas: Barnabas was Paul's mentor Joses's nickname. It means "son of encouragement."
One day, back when I worked for Barnes & Noble, I was shelving some books when my boss approached me. She glanced at my left wrist and commented, "I see you wear a watch."
"Yes," I smiled back, a bit perplexed as to why she would make such a pointed remark.
"Why?" she replied with an ironic twist to her mouth. And I knew that she had just thrown me a zinger. I was almost always late to work.
"Well," I answered in the spirit of the ribbing, "I like to know how late I am. If it is less than 15 minutes, I can breeze in and get to work. If it is more than 15 minutes, I know that I'd better be ready to grovel."
She chuckled and turned away. This was, after all, the Pacific Northwest, and being late is a way of life to most of the Latte Set.
And, who among us has not felt the tyranny of time? Whether it is the ticking of the mighty minder of minutes upon our wrists, or the larger, despairing boom of our biological clocks, or the ridiculous, self-imposed pressure cooker of a five-year-plan, we find ourselves slaves to this earthly time. We need everything we want NOW. We push off everything we don't want until an unspecified LATER. And we watch another calendar year pass by feeling stretched to the max and unfulfilled. That is why one of my favorite ideas that I took from Barnabas this year is speaking of time in terms of seasons.
This is perhaps one of the most freeing notions that has ever been introduced in my Christian walk. Mark Warren would use the term "seasons" and eschew those finite terms of days, weeks, months and years. What a blessing! In his use of that word, I caught a glimpse of how the Lord views time. To think in seasons, divorced from the notion of weather patterns or the earth's tilting toward or away from the sun, is to find peace in the midst of disruption. "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." We've read the words in Ecclesiastes -- or, at least, we've heard the song by The Byrds -- yet how hard it is to live by that precept.
I once asked Jason how long he thought Adam and Eve were in the Garden before they blew it. He laughed and said that he was always under the impression that they blew it immediately. We'll never know how many days, weeks or years they were there, because they were in a season of trust and obedience before the Fall. We know that Sarah was counting the years, because she laughed when the Lord told her that it was her season to become a mother -- incredulous that such a season should come to her when she was probably in her nineties. How many people whose stories we read in the Bible have had to wait upon seasons outside of earthly time! Their frustrations have been chronicled for our edification and comfort. As Carolyn Arends said in her presentation about Spiritual gifting, part of understanding our calling is to learn to wait upon the Lord.
I know that I've found myself fretting about periods of time in my life that seem to have no relation to hours or days, but have been, in retrospect, definable with a start and a finish. I have made up my mind for certain spans of time to be devoted to this or that goal, with a start date chosen and circled in red on my calendar. Then, I failed to achieve that goal, and I lost heart. Strangely, that goal would resurface without my realizing it at a later date, and it would be fulfilled almost without effort. Now I see that the goal, if it is worthy and of the Lord, will be neither lost nor gained by my effort or timetable. He will not plant out of season, nor will He reap. When the season begins to start something anew, He will effect it. All I need is a softened heart and the strength of Spirit to wait for the right season. What a liberating idea!
I think one example of trying to do something out of season is our entire journey with this house. Jason and I were convinced that life should somehow be easier at this point; that we should have a stash of cash and very little stress. So, we thought we'd sell our house and move to less expensive digs, and life would be great. As the house began to fall apart on us, ever more each day, we saw it as a definite calling to pull up stakes and flee. Then, as we planned and prayed and listened, we heard this idea come through: Life is not meant to be smooth coasting. When you're in your early thirties, life is still in the building season. That was the lesson we needed to learn, because, even without dealing with our house, we needed to know that it wasn't meant to be easy right now. And it is freeing to live with the knowledge that this season in our lives is one of (moderate) struggle and stress. How funny to see that as liberating! But it is, somehow.
I have come away from Barnabas with a new, exciting outlook on my life's span. That is not to say that I'm going to throw away my watch and burn my calendar. That is only to say that I'm not going to be oppressed in my view of time anymore (or, at least, I'm going to try not to be). I'm still going to be at my haircut appointment at such-and-such a time on that particular day; and church service and Sadie's gymnastics will march on at their appointed start times in and out of every season; but, I'm going to try for the eternal viewpoint and not get so frustrated by my failures in the time of man. This clay will try to stop hassling the Potter, and simply learn to trust that He who began a good work in her will be faithful to complete it, in His perfect time.